Ways to create a space of calm with yoga
Written by Marilyn Galan
When a rug is shaken just before a floor is cleaned, all the dust flies up into the air. Taking time away for some gentle yoga allows the dust to clear when one goes through any disturbing incidences. It’s a good time to soak up peace and bring the mind back to stillness. With yoga breathing techniques and some tips to calm your nerves, stay centered in the peaceful eye of the storm.
Yoga breathing techniques, or pranayams, build the life-force energy in the body. A simple yoga breathing exercise called Bhastrika will help you smile and laugh off tension after a fight. The ‘Bellows’ yoga breath vigorously pushes the breath up and out through the lungs, building up the oxygen in the body. The result is a more calm and clear mind. It is best to learn pranayams from a certified teacher.
Precautions to note: Those with coronary ailments and glaucoma should perform yoga breaths slowly and gently. If there is pain during menstruation, one can also breathe slowly. Pregnant women should avoid doing bhastrika; they can take long, deep breaths instead. Contact your local teacher to enquire about special precautions you need to take.
Writing in a journal is a great way to calm the mind. Here is a place for expressing emotions, thoughts and creative ideas. Your journal will accept them all. Here is an exercise: Write what comes to your mind, freely without stopping yourself. In a journal, you can speak candidly about the issues you are facing and your experiences after yoga breathing. Write freely. You may find that a thought or idea develops itself into poetry or even a short story.
Learn a musical instrument, or play some soothing music. Paint and draw while the music plays. Listening to positive, uplifting music can instantly transform a stormy atmosphere back to sunny skies. A research study investigated the effects of different types of music on flowering plants. The flowers grew twice as large after hearing three hours of soothing jazz and classical music a day, while plants exposed to rock music grew sickly.
Finding a yoga community, called a satsang is a chance to surround yourself with good vibes. In a satsang, yoga practitioners gather in a group to sing spiritually uplifting songs. This could also be a gospel choir, neighborhood chorale, or a satsang at your local yoga studio. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Satsang is the resting place for the mind and the spirit.” The word ‘satsang’ in Sanskrit means ‘the company of the truth.’ Bringing along the person with whom you had the fight can help with mending the friendship. Locate a satsang group near you.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of The Art of Living, gives insight into why we fight. Sri Sri says, “Some feeling came into you, an unpleasant feeling, and you said, ‘This should not come, it should not come!’ ” Two unique and special human beings will often have different expectations on the same subject. When there is resistance to an idea, often we tend to want to escape the situation, or become aggressive. “When you resist, it persists,” says Sri Sri. “Just observe. See, ‘Oh!’ Go deep into it.” Dropping the resistance to a new, differing idea can avoid a fight.
Just remembering to accept imperfections, we can agree with ourselves to allow room for imperfections, and for the fight. It is allowed to happen. And everything will be okay afterwards. “Life is a movement from imperfection to perfection,” says Sri Sri. “A seed contains the tree but the seed has to cease to be a seed to become a tree. The seed is not perfect. The sapling is not perfect. So in life you can either see imperfection at every step, or you can see a movement from one perfection to another perfection.”
In areas frequently affected by hurricanes and cyclones, beautiful palm trees dot the coastline. Here is something I call “the swaying palm tree” exercise: Imagine yourself as a palm tree that sways in hurricane-force winds. The palm tree bends, but doesn’t break. With yoga and meditation, over time, the mind can stay as beautiful and pliable as a palm tree. So the next time a storm brews before a fight, with yoga, you’ll be able to smile through it. Things may bend, but they don’t have to break.
A last bit of yoga wisdom about love: “Love is not an emotion, it is our very existence,” says Sri Sri. “At any time you feel your love is shaken by some conflict, brush it aside. Be indifferent. Indifference takes you beyond the opposite of love and hate.”
With a little insight and yoga, we can put these wise words into practice. The next time the clouds threaten to darken before a fight, through yoga, we learn it is possible to smile through it. And that may be just enough to transform a fight into a hug.
(Marilyn is a yoga enthusiast who loves to incorporate her inspiration about yoga postures and spirituality into her writing and art.)